What Happened Last Month - January 2014

Posted by Euan 11 February 2014

Here at GameEngineStart, we only really have a small segment on an hour and a half podcast every two weeks to really talk about the important stories that the industry has seen. I felt like this really wasn’t enough to truly go deep into some of these events, which sometimes can be more complicated than we have time to cover. And so lies the point of this series. Every week I am planning to take a few of the bigger headlines and attempt to pull information from all over the intertubes into a more cohesive explanation of what went on. I’ll also post some interesting articles, videos or GIFs that I come across in my travels.

To be honest, really anything that takes my fancy. It’s my series.

Last week…

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Dungeon Keeper returns, except it’s mobile, free-to-play and everyone hates it

It’s almost like EA were dooming themselves from the start. Taking a beloved franchise and attempting to reboot it? Check. Taking a complex PC game and “dumbing it down” for mobiles? Got it. Attempting to cram in Free to Play mechanics in a game not designed for it? That’s the final nail right there.

Last week EA put out a new Dungeon Keeper game, taking the classic PC base builder and porting it to iOS and Android under a Free-to-Play model. Not only are people freaking out that they are “destroying” the name of a well regarded classic, the sheer amount and aggressiveness of the free-to-play mechanics is destroying what little good faith remained. The fallout from the title reached a peak this week when perpetual overpromiser Peter Moleneux, the creator of the original PC game, claimed that the long waits for resources and the push to spend real money to bypass said waits was “ridiculous” in a BBC interview.

Topping off this fiasco was the manipulation of app reviews through some underhanded misdirection when querying the player for feedback in the Android version of the app. An in-app prompt asks if you would rate the game 1-4 stars or 5 stars. While suggesting a 5 star rating will take you directly to the Play Store to leave your glowing feedback, the former will instead take you to a private form requesting you to send your feedback directly to EA, bypassing the standard Play app review process entirely. EA claim they are using this to “make it easier for more players to send us feedback directly from the game if they weren’t having the best experience”, but it is very difficult to see past the sliminess of this tactic, especially in the wake of their many other slip ups this year. The entire SimCity experience, the poor handling of continued Battlefield 4 issues and their evil sounding legal wording all contributing to an unfavourable air around the publisher that will take some extensive work to repair.

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Flappy Bird wrecks both mobile phones and the creator

It’s the kind of success that indies dream about. You make a simple game that captures the attention of the entire internet almost immediately. Twitter explodes with noise about it, the industry writes extensively about it, the result being you end up making a metric crapton of money. This was the story of Dong Nguyen last week, the developer of the insanely simple and insanely popular timewaster, Flappy Bird. Amidst many claims of the art being heavily inspired by (some even claiming stolen from) the 16 bit Mario games, the title was making upwards of $50,000 a day (that’s not a misprint, that’s A DAY) in ad revenue. Unfortunatly the story does not lead to a happy ending, as on Saturday Ngyuen announced that he was pulling the game from digital store shelves claiming that he “cannot take any more”.

It’s unfortunate that Twitter and the internet at large has claimed another developer. The departure of Phil Fish from Twitter and the internet at large last year, along with the apparent cancellation of his follow up to Fez, shares a lot of resemblances to this story. Both were developers who were not ready for the fame caused by their titles. As the indie community continues to grow, and single developers or small teams continue to be pushed into the limelight for having the audacity to make a great game, this will continue to be an issue. It requires a special type of person to be able to handle that much attention so quickly, and when that attention is as volatile and ready to turn as the internet hate machine can be, it’s really no wonder that it can break people.

Stuff You Should Probably Read

Welcome To Mobile Gaming, Angry Dungeon Keeper Fans – Mike Fahey – Kotaku
A great rundown of the issues fans of the original Dungeon Keeper have with the new one, and why they really shouldn’t have been surprised

Why The Fighting Game Community Is Colour Blind – Mitch Bowman – Polygon
While it still has it’s fair share of problems, the fighting game community is still the most diverse one that exists in the past time.

The Unpaid Bill That Launched a Thousand Starships – Patrick Klepek – Giant Bomb
I was going to write about this insanity in this feature, but Patrick does such an amazing job of converting a lingo heavy title into something everyone can understand that I have no problem linking it. Check out the interviews he did with the winners and losers too, they are great.

Stuff You Should Probably Watch

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